If you've had sores on the insides of your cheeks or lips, on your gums or under your tongue, you may have suffered from aphthous stomatitis, also known as canker sores. This condition can cause bad breath, and unfortunately for people with stomatitis, trying to treat the halitosis can lead to more halitosis.
Canker sores are small ulcers that appear inside your mouth, usually because of mild irritation or cuts, vitamin deficiencies or a lowered immune system. A common irritant, one that can lead to stomatitis, is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), an ingredient found in some common toothpastes and mouthwashes.
This substance is a surfactant, meaning it helps get things foaming when you brush your teeth or gargle. However, it may also irritate the delicate tissues inside your mouth, potentially giving oral bacteria an inroad for the formation of an infection.
Fortunately, alcohol- and SLS-free specialty breath freshening mouth rinses exist for people suffering from canker sores. These products are designed to irritate the mouth as little as possible while cleansing the palate and reducing bad breath.
Aphthous stomatitis has been described in medical literature for centuries, and oral health experts rarely have anything positive to say about it.
Consider The Handbook of Practical Medicine, published by Swiss doctor Hermann Eichhorst in 1886. In it, he states that ulcerative stomatitis is usually accompanied by sores and oral odor.
"A nauseous foetor ex ore [oral stench] is noticeable. The patients often infect the whole room within a few minutes," Eichhorst unenthusiastically says of the disease.
He adds that French military surgeons described whole epidemics of canker sores, in which officers were spared and privates bore the brunt of the disease. He attributes this to the better diet and oral hygiene available to the higher-ups.
On this point, most dentists today would agree with him. Avoiding stomatitis and its special brand of halitosis typically means eating right and rinsing your mouth out regularly with a specialty breath freshener.
For most people, stomatitis will clear up in time. However, a study recently appearing in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology and Endodontology noted that a few cases of chronic ulcerative stomatitis (CUS) have been reported.
It is a rare disease. Since it was formally established as a condition in 1989, just 39 cases have appeared in medical literature. The authors of the study ultimately established that CUS appears to be an autoimmune disease.